When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others. We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it. When I don't write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in a prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.
And so, I will write this blog, daily to "breathe" and be better. And I will endeavor to "lure, enchant and console" you.
Today, I woke in my "discomfort zone". Discomfort zone...it describes perfectly that feeling you get upon waking when sadness and anxiety, upon realizing you're awake, knock at your brain to take up their familiar place in your consciousness. I'm sure you've all experienced it - you sleep in and wake naturally with a lovely, hopeful, sleepy feeling, vaguely aware of birds chirping and maybe coffee brewing. Perhaps you are waking from a lovely dream that you long to finish. You snuggle in and try to pull yourself back to the action of your dream but your dream isn't fooled - it knows you have moved out of slumber and it refuses to entertain you further. And so you wake up, feeling young and hopeful and glad to greet the day, and then wham!!! - you remember who you are and what you're going through. Perhaps you are my friend Liza who wakes every morning with anxiety about her deaf child and how she will meet his and her family's needs that day. Or perhaps you are my other friend who upon waking surveys the damage of his life and wonders if he has the courage to move from the known into the unknown with the hope that it will be better. Or perhaps you are me, who wakes to heartache that is so profound it is debilitating. That is the discomfort zone - it's is characterized by lethargy, fear, terror, unbearable sadness and hopelessness. It is a bad and dangerous place to linger.
I'm hoping it's possible to take on the discomfort zone. If it is a place, a state of being, then there must be structure to it, rules, things we do to give it form. And if we can understand it and dissect it, map it, then maybe we can relegate it to just a fleeting moment of our day while we organize ourselves and put things into perspective and make a positive plan for the day.
These are the things I do to encourage and nourish my discomfort zone:
- engage in obsessive thinking
- mentally work every angle of a problem looking for far-fetched loopholes
- deny what is clear to everyone else
- read and reread communication with people who are causing me distress
- listen to sad music that supports my despair
- talk incessantly about the same problem until everyone around me is numb
- make plans for positive action that I don't act on
- sleep too much
- spend too much time alone, staring out the window
- ignore my responsibilities
- don't take care of myself or the house properly
- don't challenge myself to try new things, go new places, meet new people
- don't engage in creativity
Liza says I need to fake it until I make it. She understands you can't turn your emotions off and on like a tap, but what you CAN do is control your actions. You can act healthy and well even when you're not. You can force yourself to put one foot in front of the other and not give in to inertia. You can script a perfect day and then try to inhabit it the best you can. She says that in due time, the new habits will grow roots and there will be new growth - the need for faking will be over.
So this is my challenge of the day. Are there things in your life that weigh your heart down? Are you feeding that heaviness by engaging in discomfort zone activities, indulging and even encouraging what may by now be a familiar friend, despair? Do you make room for despair in your bed, at the kitchen table, in the armchair you sit in while you sip your coffee? Do you make time for him, allowing yourself swaths of sad, circular thinking time that goes nowhere? Make a list of your discomfort zone activities - the things you do to feed and even encourage despair. Then figure out what changes you can make to starve those activities.
Wednesday, my sister was just operated on for invasive breast cancer. The tumor was tiny, thank goodness. She will probably take a drug for many years that blocks estrogen, thereby starving any new cancers that would otherwise grow on a diet of estrogen.
The idea of starving something invasive so it doesn't take root or grow further is a good one. Despair feeds on a diet of loneliness, self-indulgence, reptilian thinking, idleness, isolation, lack of creativity. Remove the diet and despair should slink into its dank little cave...it should be vanquished. This week I will report on my attempts to go on an anti-despair diet. I am going to starve this sucker.